By Jennifer Tucker, Mission Services Director
For nearly 70 years, a broad coalition of businesses, organizations and government agencies have stood together to support an important mission: to employ Americans with disabilities. With the unemployment rate for those with disabilities still nearly double that of people without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this mission is now more important than ever. As I have witnessed many times, work has the power to give people a sense of purpose and self-esteem they may not have been able to receive elsewhere. Try to remember the first paycheck you earned and how proud you were to have the money in your pocket that was put there by your hard work. Whether you saved your money to spend it on a movie you were dying to see, clothes your parents wouldn’t let you wear, or to put shoes on your child’s feet, this is a memory that I hope all people will have the opportunity to recall.
Throughout the month of October, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Labor to support National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This national campaign, which has roots tracing back to 1945, raises awareness about the contributions people with disabilities make in America’s workforce, and it encourages companies and organizations to build business cultures that value diversity, respect and employment opportunities for all.
This year’s NDEAM theme is “Expect. Employ. Empower.” Millions of Americans with disabilities make important contributions to our workplaces every day, and during October we encourage local employers to take a look at their hiring practices and ensure they are doing everything possible to recruit and meet the potential needs of such employees. Making a commitment to employ people with disabilities not only empowers this often overlooked population— but as many employers I have worked with will gladly tell you, the commitment will help companies build diversity and find dedicated, passionate and impactful employees. I am looking forward to hearing the stories of first paychecks and of the excitement that comes with that first day of work.